Men in black

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Stylized depiction of a Man in Black

In popular culture and UFO conspiracy theories, men in black (MIB) are supposed men dressed in black suits who claim to be quasi-government agents who harass, threaten or sometimes even assassinate UFO witnesses to keep them quiet about what they have seen. The term is also frequently used to describe mysterious men working for unknown organizations, as well as various branches of government allegedly designed to protect secrets or perform other strange activities. The term is generic, used for any unusual, threatening or strangely behaved individual whose appearance on the scene can be linked in some fashion with a UFO sighting.[1] Several alleged encounters with the men in black have been reported by UFO researchers and enthusiasts.

Stories about allegedly real-life men in black inspired the semi-comic science fiction Men in Black franchise, and an album by the Stranglers.


Folklorist James R. Lewis compares accounts of men in black with tales of people encountering Lucifer and speculates that they can be considered a kind of "psychological drama."[2]


Men in black figure prominently in ufology and UFO folklore. In the 1950s and 1960s, UFOlogists adopted a conspiratorial mindset and began to fear they would be subject to organized intimidation in retaliation for discovering "the truth of the UFOs."[3]

In 1947, Harold Dahl claimed to have been warned not to talk about his alleged UFO sighting on Maury Island by a man in a dark suit. In the mid-1950s, the ufologist Albert K. Bender claimed he was visited by men in dark suits who threatened and warned him not to continue investigating UFOs. Bender maintained that the men in black were secret government agents who had been given the task of suppressing evidence of UFOs. The ufologist John Keel claimed to have had encounters with men in black and referred to them as "demonic supernaturals" with "dark skin and/or 'exotic' facial features." According to the ufologist Jerome Clark, reports of men in black represent "experiences" that "don't seem to have occurred in the world of consensus reality."[4]

Historian Aaron Gulyas wrote, "during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, UFO conspiracy theorists would incorporate the Men in Black into their increasingly complex and paranoid visions."[3]

Ufologist John Keel has argued that some men in black encounters can be explained as miscast entirely mundane events perpetuated through local folklore. In his 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies, Keel describes a late night outing in 1967 rural West Virginia where he himself was taken for a man in black while searching for a phone to call a tow truck.[5]

In his article, "Gray Barker: My Friend, the Myth-Maker," John C. Sherwood claims that, in the late 1960s, at the age of 18, he cooperated when Gray Barker urged him to develop a hoax—which Barker subsequently published—about what Barker called "blackmen," three mysterious UFO inhabitants who silenced Sherwood's pseudonymous identity, "Dr. Richard H. Pratt."[6]

In popular culture[edit]

In 1979 the British Punk Rock/New Wave rock band the Stranglers recorded a song entitled The Men In Black for their album The Raven which was released that year. This was followed in 1980 with a concept album The Gospel According to the Meninblack, which featured alien visitations to Earth.[7]

The 1997 science fiction film Men In Black, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, was loosely based on The Men in Black comic book series created by Lowell Cunningham and Sandy Carruthers.[8] Cunningham had the idea for the comic once a friend of his introduced him to the concept of government "Men in black" upon seeing a black van riding the streets.[9]

In the 1998 anime series Serial Experiments Lain, there is the presence of men in black, very similar to the men in black from the original conspiracy theory. In the story, they have the work to track down and assassinate the members of a hacker group called the Knights of the Eastern Calculus, whose objective is to merge the real world and the Wired (An internet-like communication system) into one.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Clark, Jerome (1996). The UFO Encyclopedia, volume 3: High Strangeness, UFO's from 1960 through 1979. Omnigraphis. 317–18.
  2. ^ James R. Lewis (9 March 1995). The Gods Have Landed: New Religions from Other Worlds. SUNY Press. pp. 218–. ISBN 978-0-7914-2330-1. Archived from the original on 2 July 2014. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b Aaron John Gulyas (25 January 2016). Conspiracy Theories: The Roots, Themes and Propagation of Paranoid Political and Cultural Narratives. McFarland & Company. pp. 86–. ISBN 978-1-4766-2349-8.
  4. ^ Harris, Aisha. "Do UFO Hunters Still Report "Men in Black" Sightings?". Slate. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  5. ^ John Alva Keel, The Mothman Prophecies, Tor, 2002. Chapter 1: "Beelzebub Visits West Virginia".
  6. ^ Sherwood, John C. "Gray Barker: My Friend, the Myth-Maker". Skeptical Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2011-05-12. Retrieved 2006-10-10.
  7. ^ Twomey, Chris (1992). The Stranglers - The Men They Love To Hate. EMI Records Ltd. pp. 102–104.
  8. ^ David Hughes (2003). Comic Book Movies. London: Virgin Books. pp. 123–129. ISBN 0-7535-0767-6.
  9. ^ "Metamorphosis of 'Men in Black'", Men in Black Blu-Ray


Further reading[edit]